In a social media-driven generation, most of us at some point have shared fake or half-true news on our timelines. Sitting before our desktops or scrolling down our mobile phones, we accept any news that is thrown at us without question, especially when it is shared by relatively credible media houses or public personalities. We have an expectation that what we read is true.
However, not all that we read is true. Too many news stories these days are fake, half-true, planted or outdated.
The problem of fake news is becoming a crisis in India, especially when credible media houses with millions of readers widely share such false stories.
Here is a breakdown of fake/false news, mainstream media misreporting, and public personalities spreading misinformation in the last two weeks.
1) Bhim Army rally used to depict alleged protests in Gujarat against GST
Online daily The Citizen shared a story on Gujarat being “up in arms” against GST. To do this, The Citizen depicted these alleged crowds by using a video of the recent protests by the Bhim Army against oppression of Dalits. This video was shared widely on social media.
According to Social Media Hoax Slayer, the original title of The Citizen’s article was “The Huge Gujarat Rally and Protest That The Corporate Media Blacked Out”.
On the contrary, the rally in Gujarat was non-existent – because the rally took place 1,000 km away in Delhi.
Traders in Gujarat, however, to protest the GST, organised a bandh, which was covered by the media.
2) Govt circular regarding making Aadhaar compulsory for all properties declared fake
A fake letter was circulated over the past week alleging government action against property not linked to Aadhaar by 14 August.
Frank Noronha, the Principal Spokesperson of Government of India and Principal Director General of the Press Information Bureau (PIB), said that the letter was “completely fake and mischievous”.
— Frank Noronha (@DG_PIB) June 19, 2017
Chief secretary Sumit Mullick on Wednesday, 21 June, said the central government had not issued any circular asking to link Aadhaar number to property card.
Delhi Police have reportedly registered an FIR over the fake government letter. However, the Deputy Commissioner conceded to IANS that it would be difficult to trace the source of the fake letter as it was widely circulated on social media.
3) Celebration of Pakistanis shared as Indians celebrating Pakistan’s ICC victory
Several fake videos circulated on social media alleging that Indian Muslims celebrated Pakistan’s victory in the recent ICC finals against India.
These included videos of Pakistanis celebrating their team’s victory as having occurred in India. The most prominent among these fake videos were:
1. videos/photographs of people riding on bikes with Pakistani flags,
There is no doubt that the individuals who created and shared these videos and photographs wanted to engineer communal hatred between religious communities. By now, most of these intentional misrepresentations have been debunked, and many of them have been deleted by those who originally shared them after criticism. But these videos were already shred thousands of times – too much damage has already been done. More detail on Alt News.
4) No, India is not scheduling special flights to rescue Indians in Qatar
Several major outlets – including The Times of India and BBC – ran stories implying that India was scheduling “special” flights for “stranded” nationals in blockade-hit Qatar (In an unprecedented and major diplomatic rift, six Arab countries – and seven countries overall – have broken ties with Qatar, accusing it of sponsoring terror groups and trying to destablise the Middle-east).
In reality, the “special” flights involved two additional flights to cater to Eid and school vacation traffic.
AI Express will operate an additional flight each on 24 JUN & 25 JUN on the route TRV/DOH/COK/TRV to cater to Eid/School vacation traffic.
— India in Qatar (@IndEmbDoha) June 21, 2017
The additional flights to Qatar are to cater to Eid / school vacation traffic. It shouldn't be seen as evacuation as reported at some places
— Ashok Gajapathi Raju (@Ashok_Gajapathi) June 22, 2017
The false news stories created a lot of chaos, forcing government officials to respond to clear the confusion. The government, on 22 June, said all Indians in Qatar are safe and secure. “It is not an evacuation. There is no need for evacuation. Indians there are safe and secure. There are regional political developments because of which there is a problem in connectivity,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Gopal Baglay said.
As reported by India Legal, Indian ambassador to Qatar P Kumaran said, “These extra flights are to address the holiday rush as all Indian schools closed this week for summer holidays and it coincides with Eid holidays. Jet Airways is operating two flights and Air India Express another two, so there will be four extra flights to address the holiday rush.”
Ashok Gajapathi Raju, the Union Minister of Civil Aviation, took to Twitter to discredit the false information. He said, “The additional flights to Qatar are to cater to Eid / school vacation traffic. It shouldn’t be seen as evacuation as reported at some places.”
Creating or sharing fake news is never justified. We have a responsibility to verify everything that we post on the internet. To ensure that our national debate is healthy and well-informed, each and every one of us has a responsibility of treating what we read with a pinch of salt, a spoonful of doubt, and a flood of research.